»  National Review

March 22nd, 2004

  The Abolition of Sex


With recent events in Massachusetts and California, homosexual marriage — an idea that seems not to have occurred to anyone at all in the entire span of human history until about five years ago — is now a daily topic in our newspapers and TV programs. While there is certainly a great deal to be said about homosexual marriage, I have come to believe that this issue is merely an epiphenomenon, the visible manifestation of some deeper trend. To be precise, I think that what is under way here is a program to purge the very notion of sex from all our laws. This is not just a campaign to permit men to marry men, and women women; it is a campaign for the abolition of sex. Nor is it the homosexualists who are in the vanguard here, but the transsexualists — persons who wish to be not the sex Nature, in forming their bodies, intended them to be, but the other one.

I had better clarify my usage. I don't mean that we are witnessing an attempt to stamp out the intimate act. Probably nothing could be further from the minds of the activists promoting this revolution. No: Here I am using "sex" in the first of the senses offered by Merriam-Webster's Third: "one of the two divisions of organic, especially human, beings respectively designated male or female." In what passes for academic literature in this field, the word "gender" is now commonly used with this denotation. If I were more modern-minded I would say "the abolition of gender." However, when I have used "gender" in this sense in the past, I have got angry letters and e-mails from fellow conservatives. After reading through several dozen of these, I have concluded that my correspondents are correct. Furthermore, if you read much of the propaganda of transsexualist agitators, you realize that there is, for them, a key distinction between "sex" and "gender." "Sex" is what someone else thinks you are, based on some objective criterion (visual inspection, chromosome count, biochemical analysis); "gender" is what you feel yourself to be, tests and evidences notwithstanding. The latter notion, being subjective, is of course good; the former is correspondingly bad. See how the wheel has turned: "Sex" is once again a dirty word!

So my argument is that these recent shenanigans at top right and bottom left of our country are the first battles in a much broader war, a war to expunge sex from the public sphere altogether.

This came to me in a flash of understanding while I was reading the Gender Recognition Bill, which was passed by Britain's House of Lords last month. This bill, the fruit of many years' lobbying by transsexualist groups, is a remarkable document. The essence of it is that if you are a man who wishes to be known as a woman (or, of course, vice versa), the public authorities will oblige you. They will even issue you a new birth certificate, with your new sex written in. You will thenceforth be a woman, for all legal and political purposes.

There will be some formalities to be gone through. The bill requires that you present yourself to a Gender Recognition Panel, armed with a certificate from either "a registered medical practitioner practising in the field of gender dysphoria, or … a chartered psychologist practising in that field." You must offer some evidence that you have been living as a member of your new sex for two years. You do not, however, need to have undergone sex-reassignment surgery. A man with a full set of tackle can now be a woman under British law. He and another man, similarly equipped, could present themselves as man and woman at a church, and be married. You see why I believe the homosexual-marriage issue to be a secondary phenomenon here.

This bill has, as I said, passed the House of Lords. The debates were not without some droll moments.

Lord Tebbit: Clause 16 provides that if an Earl re-registers himself as a woman, he fortunately does not have to become a Countess. That is a most liberal part of the Bill; for such small mercies we should be grateful. I therefore presume that if a King should undertake gender reassignment, he could rule as a woman, but he would still be a King. I must say that that would raise some curious thoughts.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, my noble friend's speech is so fascinating that it has stimulated my thoughts. What happens if an Earl becomes a woman? Does his son then become the Earl?
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I really do not know. Presumably, as he would remain an Earl rather than becoming a Countess, his son would have other problems on his mind than whether he would immediately succeed to the title.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, let us hope that my noble friend is not going to do it.
Lord Tebbit: Indeed, my Lords, we hope that my noble friend's interest in the matter is not entirely personal.

At the time this issue of National Review goes to press, the bill, having passed the House of Lords, is being debated in Commons.

Baroness O'Cathain attempted to introduce an amendment to the bill, specifying that "a body which exists for the purposes of organised religion may prohibit or restrict the participation in its religious activities or ceremonies of persons whose gender has become the acquired gender under this Act … if the prohibition is necessary to comply with the doctrines of the religion." This amendment was defeated on a vote, 144 to 149. (Nobody who follows Church of England affairs will be much surprised to learn that opposition to this amendment was led by the Right Reverend Peter Selby, Bishop of Worcester.)

Another amendment was proposed by old Thatcherite war-horse Lord Tebbit, specifying that "no two persons each possessing XX chromosomes nor each possessing XY chromosomes, nor each possessing genitalia appropriate to the same sex, may be married the one to the other." That one went down 46 to 121. Not only does the Gender Recognition Bill open the door to homosexual marriage, it effectively prohibits a clergyman from refusing to conduct such a marriage. And if, after conducting a marriage between two people he assumed to be of opposite biological sex, the clergyman discovers that they were, in fact, of the same sex, he may not tell anyone of his discovery. Should he do so, he will have broken the law, and will face a £5,000 fine!

In line with the thinking of most British citizens, while religion was given short shrift by the assembled peers, sport occupied a great deal of their time. If Hulk Hogan were to get himself "recognized" as a woman in British law, could a women's wrestling team exclude him without opening itself to a discrimination lawsuit? Their lordships pondered mightily before passing a subtle amendment permitting sports bodies to make their own determinations of sex, where considerations of safety or fair competition might otherwise be compromised. You could practically hear Britain's swelling legion of trial attorneys rubbing their hands with glee at this point.

As an American friend remarked when I explained the bill to him: "Presumably the next step is to allow individual men or women to legally declare themselves to be trees or turnips." Presumably so; though that step will of course require parliament to first pass a Species Recognition Bill.